By Alex Bell
The government is facing criticism for a number of ‘secretive’ mining deals across Zimbabwe, which are being made without any consultation with communities and other stakeholders.
This includes an as of yet unconfirmed deal with a Chinese firm to exploit the uranium resources in the Kanyemba area. Zim media reports, quoting different sources, have said that the extraction of uranium is set to begin soon, after the Chinese were granted ‘special rights’ by the Mines Ministry.
China Uranium Corporation (CUC), already registered in Zimbabwe, is said to be partnering with Zimbabwe’s Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) on the project. It is understood that this same firm was granted a special explorative licence in 2009 and they are ready to begin full scale extraction soon.
The uranium site in Kanyemba has in recent years been the source of controversy, after Zimbabwe and Iran looked set to seal a deal on extracting the resource. In 2011 Zimbabwe earned the ire of Western nations, who accused the African country of supporting Iran’s nuclear programme, after a leaked UN report said Iran was to be granted exclusive access to Zimbabwe uranium in return for fuel.
The deal did not come to fruition, but the Chinese appear to have muscled in instead.
Efforts to contact the Mines Ministry for clarification were fruitless on Thursday. However, Farai Maguwu from the Centre for Natural Resource Governance said there are many “secretive, opaque deals taking place.”
“Obviously if there are activities taking place I don’t think the government is keen to make people aware, because that will create a crisis of expectation where people will start demanding where the revenues are going,” Maguwu told SW Radio Africa.
He explained that there is “lots is happening in the extractive sector, whereby licenses are issued without consulting the communities and the extraction begins.”
“We only start to react to the negative effects of extraction, after the fact. The companies involved and the government are not willing to consult with relevant stakeholders because there is no interest in being transparent and accountable to the people,” Maguwu said.
He said the lack of transparency was a widespread problem, not only affecting the mining sector in Zimbabwe.
“It is a microcosm of the bigger political crisis Zimbabweans are experiencing, where government has neglected its responsibly to the people. Mining deals are being negotiated for the benefit of those who are negotiating, and not the people. If the negotiation process was secretive and clandestine, you can’t expect transparency to start occurring at business level,” Maguwu said.
He added: “Zimbabweans are losing out on resources worth billions of dollars due to these secretive, opaque mining deals.”